What is it with Greenpeace? Their prime purpose seems to be to get publicity for themselves as opposed to talking sensibly to governments – who are the only organisations who can affect long-term energy developments. I now see that they have returned to criticising data centres and the internet as some evil force that burns coal but, for all the histrionics, largely based on non-attributable research, they have missed the point, yet again.
Who says that data centres have to be renewably powered? As opposed to any other application, such as hospitals, universities, old-folks homes or tax-offices? If someone buys renewable energy credits and burns a ‘green’ Watt that just means that someone else has to burn a ‘brown’ Watt. Renewable content in most grids is gradually increasing but remains a finite resource
And is the Internet a load worthy of renewable power? Why should we reserve renewable generation for social networking, photo sharing, HD videos of tap-dancing dogs, gambling, gaming and pornography? Most users of the internet (by volume, accessing via the mobile networks) don’t really care how or what powers their connection – they pay their £30/month and upload/download at will.
In fact, why doesn’t Greenpeace pick on targets that matters instead of the minor sector of data centres that perhaps consumes 2 percent of the world electrical generation? Targets like the UK, the 7th largest economy that powers itself mainly by natural gas? The UK’s gas consumption represents more than all the data centres that Greenpeace are trying to ‘shame’. Mind you, if you have a sense of irony, you would be amused that the gas that the UK burns comes mainly from Norway, a 99 percent renewable hydro grid.
No doubt Greenpeace would start with the UK by telling us all to turn down the thermostats, turn off the lights, put on an extra blanket and go to bed early so that we can reduce consumption. Or maybe they simply want us all to stop using Google, Ebay and Facebook et al?
Ian Bitterlin, Critical Facilities Consulting, is visiting professor, University of Leeds